Forget Turkey’s capital, when you’re in sub-Saharan Africa, the word Ankara should bring to mind only one thing – bright fabrics with bold patterns that communicate personal style and regional diversity.
Colourful Ankara is proudly African
Ankara fashion is appreciated across the world and is synonymous particularly with West and East African countries, although it has made its way down to and is a firm favourite in Southern Africa too. While the Dutch might have started the mass production of Ankara wax print fabric, it was the Indonesian wax-resistant dyeing technique called batik that made it possible, and Ghana’s stamp of approval that made it Africa’s.
Over the decades, Ankara fabric has become more Africa-inspired and -owned, with nuances in the patterns, motifs and names reflecting different countries and regions. Miriam Chirwa and Mary Phiri, two local Zambian designers based in Livingstone, have their hands full kitting out the closets of Zambians with beautiful Chitenge or Kitenge pieces, which is what Ankara fashion is called here. The versatility of the fabric combined with the local ladies’ creative flair results in handmade statement outfits and single pieces for any age, size and gender, no matter the occasion.
The team at Tongabezi met Miriam and Mary at a Tongabezi Trust School Careers Day. The team were so impressed when they saw the Ankara creations, that they began commissioning the pair to design and sew Chitenge outfits for them.
An Ankara collaboration at Tongabezi
After an intimate wedding on Namibia’s west coast, Gaby Endo — Brazilian-born model, DJ and the travel blogger behind WanderGlider – chose a luxury Victoria Falls honeymoon at Tongabezi. She fell in love not only with the natural beauty of Zambia but also with its vibrant culture, so vividly expressed through Ankara fashion. After meeting Miriam and seeing her incredible designs using African wax print fabric, the two collaborated on some incredible pieces, including the yellow peacock dress Gaby is wearing below.
Along with the many memories made while swimming in Devil’s Pool, encountering rhinos on a game drive in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park and of course that romantic sampan dining experience in the middle of the Zambezi, Gaby flew back home to New York with her own special bundle of locally-made Ankara fashion pieces.
Take a look at other Ankara creations by Miriam and Mary on their Facebook account: Psalm 37:5 Tailoring & Designing.